Five ways to rock a career fair (or how to stand out in the crowd)

Ok, they say that first step to get past nervousness and fear is to own up to the issue. I am an introvert. I can feel overwhelmed in big rooms and large groups. Worse yet, the thought of walking into a room with 50 employers at tables with 500 other people in lines to speak to them is somewhat terrifying. Even extroverts who are reading this have to be wondering. How do I stand out? So here you go, five ways to rock your next career fair.

1.Do your research

So I am an introvert. I am not so great at small talk and I am not really sure what to say. What I am good at? I connect pretty well one to one. I am good with detail and I can make a killer list. So the question is, how can I use my skills to help me? More important, what are your skills and how can you use them to help you!!

Find out what companies will be at the job fair: Then prep a cover letter for each of the employers you specifically want to work for. Do you know how many other candidates have prepped personalized letters? Almost none.

Practice your small talk: Read the newspaper or research the internet before the event. Know who won the big game the night before. Know about festivals in the city last weekend. Know how the company or practice is doing. Prep for the small talk and practice some talking points.

Fast Fact: What does all this research say about you? You are showing the employer just how prepared you can be. You are showing them how you will treat their customers if you get hired and they will be impressed.

2. Dress for who you want to be

This can mean a lot of different things. Be squeaky clean. Wear something nice and professional. Wear makeup designed for an office environment. Wait you say: “I’m a student. I am not really sure what looks professional.” No worries, because you know someone who does. Call your auntie. Call your tia. Call your grandma, or your uncle. Put on a fashion show while you pick the perfect thing.

Fast Fact: You may look great in that outfit you wore last Friday night, but you want them to know how you will present yourself to their customers.

3. Make a great hello

At a career fair, employers will see dozens and sometimes hundreds of candidates. They may just be collecting resumes and not even have an open position. You want to make an impression that lasts.

So write your 30 second speech. Highlight your main strengths. Practice it with your family. Sing it in the shower. Say it to your cat. They call this an elevator speech and it works. I once had a friend who entered an elevator on the first floor with the company president and had a promotion before she got off at 5.  No joke.

What should the speech say? Try this.  Write out your two best qualities. Now find a friend and ask them a simple question. Mine might read like this:

“I am really good at connecting with clients one to one and I am really detail oriented. Which would you like to know more about?”

Maybe that is too blunt for you; but it makes an impression. It highlights your skills and shows your confidence. Now try it with your skills. Write it so that it take a few seconds more. But make it short and make it focused on your strengths.

Fast fact: You get hired because of what you know, not because of what you don’t know. I won’t get a job because I don’t know how to fly a plane. I will get a job because I know how to help others get jobs. So focus on strengths.  If they ask about weaknesses, tell them how you are improving.

4. Asking questions is mandatory

This is the hardest thing. You getting the job is not about you. It’s about the company who hires you. You might think, “I really need this job.” They know you need a job. But that is not what’s on the employers mind. They are wondering how you will help them make the world a better place, or grow their business, or help them serve their customers. Hopefully you were able to do some research on their mission before you got to the fair. Talk about what you know. Ask them what makes them tick. Once you really get what they need, then tell them how you can help them achieve their goals. Make it all about them, and their interest in you will increase.

5. The art of a great thank you

How many thank you cards do most recruiters get after a career fair? The answer is darn few.

If you spoke to someone and you hit it off. Ask for their card. Then send a hand written thank you. Reference your conversation. Mine could read:

“I really enjoyed our conversation about your business and especially liked your vision to improve the lives of your patients. I couldn’t agree more and my skills at connecting with people one to one and attention to detail can help you do that. P.s. also had fun connecting with another giants fan!”

You just complimented them on their vision, reminded them about your skills and reconnected over a common interest.

Final fast fact: Study for the small talk the way you would for a test in school. Because, your interview…that’s the real final exam. Also for you extroverts out there, combine some solid prep with your natural people skills and you will rock that fair!





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The lesson of good fried rice

I once heard a story about the preparation of Chinese food.  Don’t know if the story is true.  I really believe that it sounds more apocryphal. But I like the story and its content.  The speaker was saying that Chinese food tends to be cut into smaller pieces then prepared because the chef believes that a guest should not have to be involved in preparing the food to eat. Juxtapose that to American cooking where a large piece of meat is normally placed on our plate and we are then asked to cut the meat into pieces. The speaker stated that in China, this would be considered rude and inhospitable.

I like this story because it makes me think about how we teach students and interact with our colleagues.

When teaching, do we present information in smaller bit-sized pieces; or do we throw a piece of information out and hope the student knows what to do with it? Do we take the responsibility on to ourselves to prepare the “meal;” or do we assume that it is up to the student to do all the work.

It’s important to note, that the Chinese do not feed their guests.  No one is advocating “spoon feeding” information. Rather, great effort is put forth to ensure that the information is presented in a manner that makes it immediately consumable.

I think it is the same when working with our colleagues.  I know a leader who never gives their team a meeting  agenda. Their team (their guests) comes to the table with little idea what will be covered and then they are tasked with the work of preparing ideas and concepts with little or no time to organize their thoughts. The result is a half formed discussion with rarely reaches the heights of what is possible. Our job as leaders is to assist others by doing our work excellently.  When we prepare well, we give our colleagues data, goals, and information in an instantly accessible fashion which allows them to take their work higher (and ours with it).

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Great coaching and great faculty

Yesterday I did a blog about great coaches and faculty.  In the post, I mentioned that great faculty understand the best way to deliver the coaching. Sometimes, you can be stern, others empathetic, and other times cheerlead. To illustrate, I thought I would tell the story of two other coaches I had.

When I was a junior in high school, I took a fencing course at Indiana University at South Bend.  The course was a PE course offered through their extension for the general community. The students ranged in age, education, etc.  We generally were there to learn a bit about fencing and have some fun.  The class was for 8 or 10 weeks or something like that. After 4 or 5 weeks, we were still doing basic drills.  We had not yet sparred. It was at this point that our instructor (an assistant coach for the IUSB team) injured his Achilles tendon during a match and was replaced. The new instructor was the team’s head coach. This head coach had high expectations for anyone who was in his class.

“En garde” he called. At that, we were to drop into fencing posture.  This is an odd posture if you haven’t done it. You bend your knees slightly and tuck in your rear end. It feels contrary to what your body wants to do.  Well, the head coach was horrified by everyone whose rear end was sticking out. He told then entire class that we were doing it incorrectly and warned us that we needed to tuck in our rear ends. We dutifully complied.  We practiced for a few minutes and several people (including me) found that their rear ends stuck out again. The coach did what many coaches would do at that time. He took and epee and stuck me across the rear end – hard enough to leave a red mark.  Through pain, he explained, I would remember not to do it again – and the class would benefit by my example. If they did not learn, they too would feel the sting. Well, I didn’t do it again. That is mostly, because I did not return the following week.

Juxtapose that to a martial arts instructor I had. Mr. White was my teacher in my late twenties and early thirties.  He was one of the best coaches I have ever had.  He knew me and knew what buttons he could push.  After about a year of teaching me, he got really frustrated.  We were practicing punches and I unclenched my fist too smoothly.  It showed that I was not gripping firmly enough which would have resulted in broken knuckles in a real fight. To help me understand my mistake, he cranked the heat in the room to over 100 and had me do knuckle push-ups for 30 minutes straight. Yes, my knuckles got red. Yes, my shoulders were sore for a couple of days. Following this, I apologized to Mr. White for my error. Next week, I was on time and furiously gripping my knuckles.

What was the difference?

Both men used a physical form of disciple. But,

Mr. White and I had spent real time building trust and understanding. I had only known the other person for a few minutes.

Mr. White never belittled me. He explained what and why. The other instructor talked to me like a child.

Mr. White called me on something that we had discussed many times and I definitely knew better than to do what I was doing. I was so new to fencing though that I barely knew what to do – let alone how to do it.

My goal were different in each class. I wanted exposure fencing. I had gone past that and know wanted to develop mastery in martial arts.

Part of the trust with Mr. White was my explicit agreement to follow his instruction. I had no such social contract with the fencing master.

I assume the fencing master felt he was well rid of a student that lacked the drive to be great. But who knows what could have happened had he let the desire grow. Had Mr. White turned up the heat on day one, I would likely have not returned. The fencing master’s expectations were out of sync with the support he gave. Mr. White sweated as much as I ever did during my lessons. His expectations wound up lifting us both up.  This is at the heart of great teaching.






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What it means to have high expectations

I tried out for my elementary school basketball team in sixth grade.  I was the second tallest boy in school (that btw ended in 7th grade). I have always been able to do pretty well athletically.  I am not the fastest, or the strongest, or even the most tenacious; but I pick things up quickly and am pretty competitive. Anyway, I thought that I could do well enough to make the team.  I only had one real issue. 

I could not make a free throw to save my life.

Later on, in high school, someone pointed out my problem. When I raised the ball and got ready to shoot, I would start with the ball behind my head. Then I would chuck the ball towards the net.  The ball would always miss the hoop by a good six feet because I simply had no leverage.  To hit the basket, you start with the ball in front of your face (it’s more like pushing the ball towards the basket). This posture gives lots of leverage and the ball gets to hoop.

Anyway, long story short, I didn’t make the team.  I missed ten free throws in a row and wasn’t even considered. Here is the funny thing though. I went on to play intramurals. I was our leading scorer and my team won the tournament. We beat teams with varsity and junior varsity players.

So why the long story?

The memory came up as I was talking with a colleague about what makes a great faculty member. Part of the discussion was the need for faculty to have high expectations.  This is so critical. The basketball coach in sixth grade had high expectations.  He expected that his players be able to shoot free throws.  No free throws equaled no start. But I think that great faculty instantly recognized where this coach went wrong. One minute of individualized or group instruction, showing me the proper way to throw a ball, might have made a difference. I would not be in the pro’s, a good six to ten inches of height and a lack of pure talent stopped that, but I might have made the team.  A great faculty member recognizes this. A great faculty member connects with students, understand where individual deficiencies lie, gives instruction, gives praise, and ultimately helps give students a leg up to meet the high expectations which have been set.  Each course has terminal objectives – those learning outcomes which must be met to demonstrate the appropriate level of mastery. The key is to get students to meet them. The coach in the story above told us what they objectives were, but left it completely up to us to meet them. A great coach, or a great faculty member, learns about their students and does everything possible to tailor their instruction to help the student meet the terminal objectives. A great coach does not wait to be asked for assistance, but rather goes out of their way to be watchful and identify those areas where remediation is needed. (This is one of the reasons I am so proud to work at a university that has small class sizes.)  A great coach then connects with the student to identify how best to deliver the coaching – stern, sympathetic, or excited.

I would suggest that the coach in my story did not have high expectations. He actually had no expectations at all.  He gave a test (in this case free throws). Succeed or not. He didn’t have any expectations for any of the student’s success.  A great coach expects that his students succeed and holds him(her)self partially responsible for the delivery. His expectations are first for him(her)self and then for the students.

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Home at last

I wound up getting home yesterday about noon. It was a long morning. Cold, windy, cloudy. It was, however, the final morning. I got home, showered and went to have lunch. A nice bowl of tomato soup. It felt good on a cold morning. I got back home at 2pm and immediately took a long nap.

The trip took. Couple of days more than I thought it would. There were 5 major time wasters.

First, bike issues. I really should have upgraded my tires before leaving. I spent what amounted to an extra day on flats. Upgrading solved the problem and was relatively inexpensive. The problem they caused, however, was expensive. An extra day of hotel and a can to the bike shop. That’s the way it always is. Let a problem lie and it always gets more expensive.

Second, GPS and mapping. This was a major issue. GPS mis-directed me six times. This didn’t, in and of itself, add time. That’s because I wasn’t in a position to stop early. Instead of the 97 mile day I had planned, I estimate I went about 110 miles, it did sap some stength out of me the next day. The final day split did split in two. Internet resources indicated that I could ride on highway 126. Well I could ride on 10 miles of it. The problem is that I needed to ride on 30 miles of it. It took back roads and re-working my ride. This happened a couple of times with less impact.

Third, stop lights. I spent a significant amount of time in Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach and the dozens of smallers cities in the five Southern California counties. I estimate I spent 6-7 hours waiting on lights to turn green. That is an estimate in seeing on my GPS my stopped time. I knew I would have stopped time, but never dreamed it would add up to this amount.

Fourth, the space between the cities. People who know Southern California are aware of how much empty space there is. These are less populated area with residences, ranches and few services. These spaces are often only connected by highways. As a for instance, I chose to end a day early rather than ride on the PCH between Santa Monica and Oxnard after dark. It’s a busy highway, lots of trucks, narrow shoulder, and no fun in the dark.

Fifth, all those nice people. Everyone was kind and interested in the ride. They asked me where I was coming from, shared their own stories, and were genuinely nice. My goodness, how much time was wasted talking to nice people and telling them about DeVry University and the Education Fund. 🙂

It was a great trip and I learned a lot. I need to do some planning and re-planning for the cross country trip.

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Thank you team Oxnard

I left Santa Monica at about 715 this morning. A bit chilly with cloud cover. First things first, a good breakfast…


Get those carbs moving for a new day on the bike. Finally after about two hours on the road, the sun began to peek through the clouds…


And at about 1pm, I saw the tower in which the Oxnard center resides…


The team in Oxnard was in great spirits.


This is a team that serves Ventura county. One of the newest centers in the country. Gary Nay is the ADA for Palmdale and Oxnard and is an old friend. Committed and a great leader his team responds on part due to his belief in them.

I am almost home. I was about to press on tonight and sleep in my own bed, but the sign on the freeway so no bikes. I could have pressed through, but decided to stay in Santa paula and plan the final leg of the journey. Enough way finding in the dark with less than great information.

Tomorrow, home by about 1pm. Thank you all for following, thanks to the 56 people who have gone to the foundation website and donated. Thanks to all the others who donated through the open enrollment process. Still time to donate. Talk to you all tomorrow.

Posted by Scott Sand at 6:06 PM No comments:
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Orange County and the Long Beach campus

Last night I pedaled into Orange County. It was a relief. Riverside County challenged my legs and my willpower. San Diego challenged each of these and broke my bike as well. The OC was welcome. When I passed the sign I let out a yell and went around a small curve. There it was immediately upon entering the county, a hill. A high and long hill. I burst out laughing. The OC was telling me I still needed to earn my ride.

I left Newport Beach this morning and went 16 miles north to the Anaheim center.

The Anaheim team has many colleagues I truely enjoy. I also met several people for the first time. The center serves the residents of Orange County and they serve them well. They had been prepared for me the day before, but prepared again this morning. They are committed and engaged and I am honored to work beside them.




After leave Anaheim, i travelled along Katella st. A sign named Long Beach a Bike friendly city and it was.


The trip was quick, the team made me some pancakes, and gathered together to take a photo and support the DeVry Education Fund.



Long Beach is in a beautifully renovated facility.

Tonight, I am in Santa Monica. Tomorrow, I will be in Oxnard. If iI make good time, I will head home as well.

DeVry, thank you for your support. Thank you for supporting the fund.

Posted by Scott Sand at 6:12 PM No comments:

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Funny how the hardest morning turned into a gorgeous ride

Beautiful day along the coast. Sunny, warm with a cool sea breeze. A couple of small mishaps.

I don’t regret staying in the hotel and leaving at 9am. Taking a moment for myself really made a huge difference. By the time I left, I was ready to ride; and it felt great. I stopped at Starbucks for breakfast and that really meant a 9:30 departure.

I had initially decided that I was going to avoid crossing Camp Pendleton. By what I read, the route is more hilly and a mile or so longer. But when I got there, I changed my mind. Traffic was going so fast and the 10 or 15 minutes wouldn’t make that much difference. This was the right choice. The wrong choice was that I failed to really go through my directions again. The path was supposed to be really well marked and you would get in trouble for straying. Well, the first mistake was not prepping correctly. The second mistake was missing Stuart Mesa road. It was not well marked. High vegetation blocked the sides of the road and I didn’t realize my mistake until I climbed a 300 foot hill and saw how far from I-5 I was. Nine miles out of my way on hilly roads. Passed by two military police cars who did not stop me. I even pulled in to a base McDonalds and was seen by many who didn’t question me. I must look very official. A nice mechanic helped me and pointed the way. I hope that the McDonalds did not require a security clearance. I would really be in trouble then;-)

Finally back on the correct path. I rode north. As I got to San Clemente I stopped for some lunch and looked back at my directions. I had it all planned out and got back on my bike.

The next one was in Dana Point. I was to get back on the 1, but signs were conflicting. I stopped by a bike shop and spoke with a first ranger. 40 minutes of looking at GPS and speaking with very helpful people and I found out that I needed to go onto the road that had a sign that read “do not enter,” wind around two roads and then pop onto the 1.

Once I got back on, it was a beautiful ride. The sun was setting behind Catalina Island, and the temperature was perfect. I rode about an hour and a half after dark. Traffic was busy, but the night was peaceful non-the-less.

Sixteen miles to Anaheim, the 19 to Long Beach. Should visit both campuses and be back on the road by noon. I am hoping the share news about the DeVry Education Fund and encourage each colleague to donate.

I am about 470 miles into my ride. Feeling really good. Had it not gotten dark so early, I would have gone on in to Anaheim tonight.

Would like to spend tomorrow night in Santa Monica.

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My body is telling me to quit, my mind is trying to stay strong

This is a rough morning. My legs feel so tight. Getting up out of bed after a difficult night. I woke up at
least 4 times and a couple of those were for 30 minutes or more. I am so thirsty that it’s difficult to take in the amount of water that my body wants. My tongue actually hurt enough to wake me up last night. I got up and drank about 40 ounces of water and was able to go back to sleep.

Being on the coast is harder than I thought. Going up a sizeable hill is a lot of exertion at this point in the trip since there just isn’t a lot of juice in my legs. So I get very warm and sweaty. Then I go down the hill at high speed due to gravity and the cold breeze from the Pacific Ocean hits that sweat and chills me to the bone.

The pinky on my left had has been numb for three days due to the pressure I am putting on it,

The good things are: my legs aren’t swelling, my knees haven’t really hurt at all (which is a major accomplishment for me), no saddle sores, my pinky is still pink (not blackening), no sunburns (thank you SPF 50), my feet feel great, I have new tires, it is sunny with low wind speed, And I have received so many encouraging messages from friends and co-workers. Alumni have also sent them, and that is really meaningful to me.

This is the longest ride, day after day, I have ever done. I am approaching the 400 mile marker on the trip. Hopefully hit that my noon at the latest. This is great experience for the cross country trip I am planning. Letting me know what I have to do to get ready. I am going to try to finish in three days but it may spill over to a fourth.

This is also something that reminds me what our students go through.

This morning there is a student in bed, with serious financial concerns, family issues, and in a dead end job. They are feeling depressed and their body and mind is telling them to stay in bed. They do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. Not yet. I am asking you all to give something to the DeVry Education Fund. It doesn’t have to be a lot. We would fund an amazing number of scholarships if every colleague gave $1 and if every alumni gave $1. We can do this together; we can change a life.

Help today. Even if only a little.

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Upgrades and headed home

After replacing my inner tubes last night, I got a good night’s sleep and walked out the door at 7:15am.  Seventeen miles to the San Diego. Again, Calofornia roads tricked me. Right after mounting one pass and descending quickly, I looked up and realized the road I was on looped left and I went straight.  Was easily fixed, but I did need to climb another pass.

Finally, I arrived at the San Diego campus.


And met a phenomenal team of people.


I had hoped to arrive late veteran’s day. This is a campus that is devoted to serving those people who have served us so well. They have an amazing work ethic and have grown their location by serving students so well. The leader of the location is Pam Daly and she really is an inspiration to the team.

After leaving the San Diego campus, I went to a bike shop. I spent an hour, and now have have new Rhino liners in my tires and thorn resistant inner tubes. I told the guy there that I want my tires to spit nails and chase pitbulls.

Off I went following the bike shop and passed by Seaworld to the ocean.


About 25 more miles north and I am in a hotel in Carlsbad. Tomorrow, I will head across Camp Pendleton and north to Anaheim and Long Beach. I hope to get to Anaheim about 3 pm. I think I might leave at 8am in the morning. A bit later than normal, but the shore is cold….

This has been a great trip but I am glad to be headed home. I have been so impressed by my colleagues who are genuinely interested in both the ride and most importantly, the DeVry Education Fund. This is a great cause and each one of us could and should support it. Even $1 will help a student struggling to make ends meet.

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